Why I couldn’t be a writer at fourteen

Kid WritingIn English class when I was thirteen, we had to write a short (very short) novel.  Here is the blurb I wrote about myself for the cover:

Steve wrote this novel when he was in the eigth grade.  This is his first novel (or long story).  He enjoys writing, but doesn’t think he will be an author when he “grows up.”

If you liked this novel and want to read more novels by this author then you are stuck.  He hasn’t written any other others.

I feel very sad when I read that self description.  I hadn’t learned anything about creative writing, but I had already told myself it wasn’t for me… even though I loved it.

As easy as it is to simply sit down and write, emotionally it took ten years to master.  I needed to believe in myself enough to follow my passion.

Writing my first book was very cathartic. It helped me over come a lot of self-doubt…. my forcing myself to sit down and write I realized I was able to.  The only person who had been stopping me was me.

So be grateful for passion. Whatever your passion is, enjoy it and never it for granted….

What to do when loosing hope about writing

Cash Register
Sometimes I look at my writing career compared to JK Rowling or Tolkien and wonder, “What’s the point?”.  When we started indie-publishing, I figured books just flew off the shelf — you just had to finish them.  I’ve been surprised by how much work it takes to get the word out about new books (but I’m glad I didn’t know how much effort it took or I may have never started).

In the pit of marketing despair I always realize that I’m am upset because I was excited about writing for the wrong reasons.  I love writing because I love to write…. I think of all the happy memories writing in the Wellington Library, my black lazy-boy chair and now with my son sleeping on my lap.  That’s why I write… and that’s also why you should do anything.

If you tie your happiness to goals you don’t have much control over (like getting everyone to like you), then you’re bound to be miserable.  But if you tie your happiness to things you can work towards (like deciding to write every night), life becomes a lot more enjoyable…. and it’s much easier to get through the harder times!

Writing What Kids Want

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One of the best things about being an author is that I get to be playful and childlike. In most businesses, the importance of seriousness is expressed constantly by the formal clothes, sterile cubes and cheesy motivational posters.

But as an author, my job is to entertain. It’s really hard to remember that not all of life is dull!

The seriousness of being a grown-up always sneaks in. And for a moment, you think it’s a good idea to write about your characters taking out the garbage and doing other important chores that adults are saddled with because that makes your story more believable.

When I start writing about chores, I know it’s time to walk around, read something funny, IM a friend sit and smile. If a kid would find the topic boring, it’s probably not something to write about.

Daily Morning Pages

Diary

About 5 years ago, I started writing daily morning pages. Morning pages are a journal of free-flowing thoughts.

It was most helpful for me to slip in some affirmations… mantras that helped me remember I’m an author and that it’s the little things in life that matter. Those have slowly morphed into sporadic lists of things I’m grateful for.

But I usually write on the bus to work, which made it all a bit awkward. I needed my favorite back corner bus seat or else I worried a nosey neighbor would question why I was gushing about myself.

It also meant my book of mental confessions was leaving the house. I always wonder what a thief would think if they stole a backpack filled with affirmations. Would they be inspired to like their self, or think they robbed a nutter?

Either way I have found morning pages are a great way to get everything off on the right foot. I can frame the day how I wanted it framed — instead of letting others tell me how my day will good. And best of all, a la Stuart Smalley, I’m always Good Enough, Smart Enough and Doggone It — People Like Me!

10 Ways to Find More Time To Write

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When my wife and I got serious about making time for writing, something had to be cut. I’m a big believer that there’s always time… you just have to make it.

Here are some ideas we came up with to help fit writing into your life.

Cut back on TV: The average american adult watches roughly 2.8 hours of TV per day. (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.nr0.htm/) That’s a lot of leisure time for writing.

Find a consistent time to write each day: Writing is about showing up and working…. the muse will come if it comes. Find a consistent time you can set aside all distractions and focus. If you have kids, that might mean waking up early or staying up late. If you work, that might be your lunch hour or commute time (if you have ride the bus — not if you bike!)

Work Collaboratively With People: Writing doesn’t have to be a solitary endeavour. David Wright and Sean Platt (http://selfpublishingpodcast.com/about/) co-author a series of books. My wife and I usually brainstorm while walking together after dinner. I think people are afraid to work together because their ideas will be stolen, but as Tim O’Reilly said, “Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy”

Look at your expenses: How much time are you working at your day job? Do you have multiple jobs? Lots of overtime? Take a look at your expenses. If you can reduce them, you might be able to reduce your day job. How much is your rent? Are you signed up for services you don’t use much anymore? How much are you spending on entertainment and eating out? Do you sneak off to buy snacks every day? Look into reducing your workload if that’s possible for your profession.

Outsource what can be outsourced: How is your time best spent? Are you trying to do the whole book process yourself? Sometimes it makes sense to hire professionals to handle editing, cover design, etc, even if you can do it yourself. Given your talents you need to figure out what’s the best use of your time and what you should hire help for.  Ask friends for help if they have an interest in books as well.

It’s OK to say no: People are always making demands on our time. It’s easy to feel guilted into doing them. (I’m from the midwest — I know all about guilt). It’s ok to defend your writing time and say no to requests that cut into it.

Always carry a notebook: You never know when you’ll have an unexpected block of time. Maybe you’ll be waiting for an appointment or the grocery line will be an hour long. (I know it’s unlikely, but keep a notebook handy just in case.)

Speed up household chores: How can you speed up household chores? Can you cook food in batches? Buy more underwear so you can wash clothes in bigger batches? Just don’t cut corners on cleaning — you never know when Mom will stop by.

Do things that inspire you: You don’t need to be a poor, deprived, starving artist. Do things that inspire you (maybe that’s hiking, watching rodeo, or going to a museum). If you’re not taking care of yourself (physically, mentally, spiritually), then you won’t have as much energy for everything… including writing.

Work on projects you love: If you love what you’re doing and it makes you happy, then you’ll find time for anything. Pick writing projects you love and that inspire you. If you don’t love what you’re doing, it’s time to do something else.

-Steve